I’d like to say a few words about Regiments if I may.
Before I get into a discussion of the game, I’d like to thank David Lagettie, the gaming entrepreneur who, along with some far-sighted investors, revived MicroProse Software nearly 20 years after the original company – co-founded by retired Lt. Col. William “Wild Bill” Stealey and legendary game designer Sid Meier way back in 1982 – shut down operations and closed all its studios in the U.S. and Great Britain. I was sorry to see MicroProse 1.0 go, but I’m grateful that Lagettie and his team resuscitated the company name and started publishing cool new computer wargames,
In its heyday, MicroProse had been at the vanguard of computer games and military-themed simulations, and I cut my gaming teeth on such games as Crusade in Europe, NATO Commander, the three games in the F-15 Strike Eagle series, Red Storm Rising, M1 Tank Platoon, and Sid Meier’s Civilization in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
I don’t know if the new version of MicroProse is developing its own games, but the company – which seems to be focusing on military-themed games for now – is publishing titles developed by smaller independent studios in Europe, the U.S., and Australia.
“The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!”
Currently, even though I own some of the original MicroProse’s legacy titles that have been released over the past five years or so by the current holders of the 1980s-1990s games’ licenses, right now the only “new” MicroProse title I own is Regiments, which was developed over a two-year period by a small European studio called Bird’s Eye Games.
Regiments is a real-time tactical simulation of land warfare set in an alternate version of the 1980s where glasnost, perestroika, and the fall of the Soviet empire never happened. Instead, internal pressures and fear of a revolt in East Germany lead to an invasion of West Germany by the Russian-led Warsaw Pact, resulting in a Cold War-turned-hot conflict between the Communist bloc and the NATO alliance, including the United States, Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France.
Per the developer’s blurb on Regiments’ Steam page:
Regiments is a Real-Time Tactics game set in Germany 1989. The Cold War has gone hot, and the inferno is raging. Lead your Regiment through the fires of conflict and the fog of war. Break through the lines, call in artillery, maneuver, feign retreats, stage defenses, counter-attack. Do not relent. – Bird’s Eye Games promo blurb
“War is Hell, Boys!”
Released last Tuesday via Steam and other digital game distributors, Regiments is a one-player wargame where you, the player, can lead units from either the Western NATO alliance or the Soviet-dominated Warsaw Pact in a fight to the death in West Germany. I have not played the Operations – which I believe are the “Campaign” missions in Regiments – so I don’t have the war’s fictional background and can’t tell you the Soviets’ motivations to go to war. Suffice it to say that It’s the summer of 1989, something went horribly wrong on the way to the peace dividend, and the balloon went up in West Germany.
As the game’s title strongly suggests, you command a regiment/brigade-sized combined arms unit from one of the two opposing blocs in a divided Cold War Europe. For variety’s sake, just like the older Armored Brigade from a few years ago, you aren’t locked into the Soviets-or-Americans binary choice, but you can command troops from other national armies, including East and West Germany, Britain, and Belgium. (NATO, of course, included 12 other countries, but only four are represented in Regiments at the time this is being written.)
And as in Armored Brigade, Regiments offers commanders a wide range of units and weapons systems that were in service 33 years ago, including various models of American M1 Abrams main battle tanks, West German Marder armored personnel carriers, several marks of West German Leopard main battle tanks, Soviet BMP-1 and BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles, and British Challenger main battle tanks.
As in any World War III land combat simulation that depicts warfare at the tactical level, Regiments also gives players the opportunity to employ support units tasked with scouting, fire support, air defense, and even simple logistics. There are also combat engineers, helicopters (both scout and attack), and dedicated ground attack aircraft such as the Russian-made Sukhoi Su-22 and the American A-10A Thunderbolt II, aka Warthog.
The game’s biggest challenge, of course, is how to properly deploy – and employ all these units either in defensive or offensive missions. Not every resource is always available, and not every unit can move at the same speed or has the same capabilities as the others. The trick in Regiments is to know the pros and cons of each unit and its hardware, its weapons, and how to effectively use terrain, mobility, armor protection, and firepower to achieve victory on the battlefield.
It’s Like ‘Wargame,’ But Different
I don’t have the time or energy to write a detailed review of Regiments, but I give you a brief “first impressions” overview of the new game.
Keep in mind that the game was not created by any of the original developers at MicroProse. Regiments is the product of a self-described “small indie team with a focus on large-scale games” based somewhere in Europe – on the game’s credits page, there are lots of Slavic names for various personnel, mixed with a few English language names, including Shane Gavin and Jordan Shone-Andrews.
Just as Armored Brigade inherited some of the conventions from other wargames such as the Close Combat series from the late 1990s, Regiments seems to take many of its cues from France’s Eugen Systems’ popular Wargame series – Wargame: European Escalation, Wargame: AirLand Battle, and Wargame: Red Dragon. The basic “look” of the game closely resembles Wargame: AirLand Battle, at least in the broad strokes of zoomable 3-D views of the battlefield, Objective Zones labeled with the NATO phonetic alphabet, and a simple point-and-click user interface (UI) with which you issue orders to your various units.
Of course, the details differ, otherwise, Eugen could sue Bird’s Eye Games for copyright infringement and other IP-related issues. But if you play any of the games in the Wargame series, you’ll see the similarities well before you see the substantial differences.
As I commented earlier today on MicroProse’s Facebook page:
I haven’t had the time to write a review of Regiments, but I do think it needs to have some tweaks, such as giving players at least one complete battalion task force already constituted rather than the Wargame-like piecemeal deployment process that Bird’s Eye Games went for here. Don’t get me wrong; I know it took a lot of time to create the game, but I think the Wargame/Steel Division vibe is not realistic. If I may make an analogy with classic MicroProse games, it’s like starting a game of M1 Tank Platoon with only two tanks, a Bradley CFV, and waiting till you have “deployment points” to “earn” the rest of your combat team. So… this setup might be fine for fans of Wargame, but it doesn’t work for me. I do like the graphics, and I kinda/sorta like the UI, but I still think that making Regiments with features reminiscent of Wargame: AirLand Battle, was not the way to go.
Keep in mind that I am still learning how to play Regiments and that I’ve only had it for less than one week as I write this. I do like the game, and I am glad that MicroProse is back in business after nearly 20 years in limbo.
I just wish Regiments was more like M1 Tank Platoon on a regiment/brigade scale, which is what I thought we’d get from MicroProse and Bird’s Eye Games. It is a bit of a letdown, considering that I was looking forward to its release for well over a year.
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